Superfoods: The 20 Most Incredible Edibles

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Most of us
know that avocado, blueberries and broccoli tick all the health
boxes, but there are many other lesser-known superfoods that we
should become acquainted with, says nutritionist Glen Matten –
and better still, they all taste great.

1 Leeks
for digestion

Judging by
the TV ads, I guess you know about probiotics – ‘friendly’
bacteria – already. You probably know less about prebiotics,
the fibre that stimulates the good bugs. Leeks contain prebiotics
in abundance, which spells happy days for digestive health and may
even enhance the immune system.
Other prebiotic foods: Bananas, asparagus, artichokes, onions

2 Swiss
chard for vision

Chard is especially
rich in two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, which are
also present in the eyes. It looks likely that diets rich in these
beneficial compounds may protect eye health by helping to reduce
the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Chard is good steamed
or sautéed, as well as added to soups and stews.
Other eye-brighteners: Kale, spinach, peas, broccoli, eggs

3 Watermelon
for sun protection

As its name
suggests, watermelon is nearly all water. But it’s also a good
source of the red plant pigment lycopene, associated with a reduced
incidence of heart disease and prostate cancer, and protection of
the skin against damage from UV light.
Other sun-screening foods: Tomatoes, red peppers, green tea,
mackerel

4 Coriander
for anti-aging

A generous
sprinkling of fresh coriander helps to make up for the lack of green
leafy stuff in our diets. It contains good levels of betacarotene
and vitamin C, two of the antioxidants thought to protect against
age-related disease, and measures up pretty well against other antioxidant-rich
fruit and veg.
More antioxidant agents: Berries, broccoli, peppers, carrots,
leafy green veg

5 Coffee
for a healthy liver

If I told you
there was a drink that might reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s,
cirrhosis, gallstones and liver cancer, you might be surprised to
find it in Starbucks. But coffee is such a significant source of
antioxidants that it could feasibly claim to be a health beverage.
More liver-lovers: Artichokes, rocket, blueberries, beetroot,
broccoli

6 Onions
for fighting cancer

Onions are
particularly plentiful in quercetin, a compound that may possess
cancer–protective properties (notably against lung cancer).
Consumption of allium vegetables,
which include shallots, leeks, chives and garlic as well as onions,
is also likely to fortify your diet against the risk of stomach
cancer.
Other anti-cancer warriors: Apples, oranges, parsley, tea,
red wine

7 Curry
for immunity

Turmeric is
hot stuff with researchers because it contains curcumin, which has
anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties. It might just
turn out to be a brain food, too, with mounting evidence that it
may help protect against Alzheimer’s. Not a bad reason to make
a curry.
More immune-boosters: Garlic, watercress, tomatoes, pumpkin
seeds

8 Courgettes
for weight-loss

Courgettes
are a perfect example of the low-energy-density foods we should
favour to fend off weight gain. They can be steamed, roasted, stir-fried,
used in casseroles and stews, and make tasty crudités. With
a high fibre and water content, they’ll fill us up and provide
only a small amount of calories – but a decent amount of vitamin
C.
Other fill-you-up foods: Rye bread, apples, brown rice, celery

9 Red grapes
for your heart

The clever
compounds in the skins are the attention-grabbers here, accounting
for a lot of the fuss about the benefits of red wine. These polyphenols
are widely touted for their cardioprotective properties, and the
darker the grapes, the higher the polyphenol levels are likely to
be.
Other heart helpers: red wine, purple grape juice, nuts, oily fish

10 Black
pepper for cheerfulness

Its active
ingredient is a pungent alkaloid called piperine, which, researchers
have found, stimulates digestion, has antidepressant effects, and
does a whole lot more besides. Who’d have thought such an everyday
spice had so many intriguing components?
Other mood-lifters: Turkey, salmon, dark chocolate, bananas,
oat cakes

11 Mussels
for metabolism

Cooked mussels
Mussels are rich in selenium, which is involved in thyroid function
(which controls metabolism), immunity, and reproductive health.
Intake of this trace mineral has declined in recent decades and
there's debate about whether this ups our cancer risk.
Other selenium sources: Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, cod, eggs

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the rest of the article

January
4, 2010

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